Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Friday, 2 May 2008

Friday 2 May 2008 - TGO Challenge - all ready to go

Well, the train tickets have been purchased and arrived efficiently in less than 24 hours, the kit has been put in a pile (see above), the food supplies have been strategically stashed, the chocolate caramel shortbread (CCS) has been baked, route cards have been printed, accommodation booked, etc, etc.
So we are ready with almost a week to spare.
Amazing!
Our planned route and kit lists are here.
And, if you like, you can follow our blog as we amble across Scotland, starting next Friday (9 May), distributing CCS in our wake.
Some estimated statistics, just to fill out this entry,
with 2007 actuals in red:
Distance - 325 km (203 miles) / 343 km (214 miles)
Ascent - 12730 metres / 12942 metres
Munros - 16 / 2
Corbetts - 3 / 8
Grahams - 1 / 2
Marilyns - 0 / 1

Forgive me, but I'm sure I've missed something - it must be harder than this...
Perhaps you'll let me know?

...Thanks Theo - Estimated number of pubs visited = 10 (minimum) / 7 (so a more sociable route this year)

Thursday 1 May 2008 - Tegg's Nose

This evening, after a quick beer in the Leather's Smithy, Sue, Andrew and I headed down to Bottoms reservoir, built in 1850 to 'water' the people of Macclesfield, with a maximum depth of 32 feet and a capacity of 34 million gallons. It was a lovely clear sunlit scene.

Ahead of us Tegg's Nose loomed large. A number of cyclists were enjoying the fine bright evening. Our route took us along the Gritstone Trail into Tegg's Nose Country Park.

As we ascended the views opened out - across the Cheshire plain, past Jodrell Bank, to the mountains of North Wales; the Shropshire hills stood out to the south; the Cat and Fiddle Inn, on the Macclesfield to Buxton road, looked very close, and the frequently visited summit of Shutlingsloe was illuminated by the evening sun above the trees of Macclesfield Forest.

A lot of work seems to have been put into the Tegg's Nose experience, not least a series of attractive signs and information boards. Not a mark of graffiti in sight. Some walk commentaries are here.

The image below depicts the following:
"The story starts in a warm, tropical sea 350 million years ago when Britain formed part of a landmass on the equator. This time was called the Carboniferous Period.
Life was plentiful in the clear, warm water. Corals and shelled animals lived and died, their remains forming the limestone of the central Peak District.
These idyllic tropical conditions did not last forever."

Duly humbled, we continued on past more recent relics from Tegg's Nose's days as a quarry.
It has been a quarry for some time, perhaps as far back as the fifteenth century.

There is some display machinery that used to work in the quarry. A small stone crusher (pictured), a crane and a big square thing that’s actually an old stone saw that used to be run by a steam engine.

The quarry supplied stone for stone kerbs, flagstones and stone cobbles. Some of the time it was quite small scale. Other times, teams of men worked the quarry extensively. There’s evidence of a railway track around the quarry. The rubble was dropped over the end of the nose below what is now a viewpoint.
Between 1928 and 1934, Tegg’s Nose stone was used to widen the promenade at Douglas on the Isle of Man. (Just thought I'd share that fascinating snippet with you!)
During the last war, the Americans came with big lorries and pneumatic drills and quarried for aggregates to make runways. The pneumatic drills were popular with the locals as they gave them a break from blasting, which had a nasty habit of throwing stone into the surrounding valleys...

The sun set as we strolled past the Visitor Centre along the ridge that used to lead to the Setter Dog pub where the quarrymen used to celebrate their continuing good health after visits from the doctor. Most of them were dead from silicosis by the age of 50. Sadly, with the quarrymen long gone, the pub has recently demised and is now 'Peak cyclesport', which may be an excellent cycle shop.

Our route now headed across fields to Warrilowhead Farm, situated in an imposing position on the side of a hill, then over slightly marshy ground to Ashtreetop.
Darkness was gaining on us as we stumbled over some final stiles, across a tarmac road and into the depths of Macclesfield Forest. Luckily, bearing left at a wider track, we soon reached an old barn known as Dimples, from where the brightly chipped main route through the forest led us gently down to the metalled road that links Forest Chapel with Langley. This used to be part of a Royal hunting forest and subject to very strict laws, but is now under Water Board ownership, and a valued public amenity.

Before long we were enjoying more beer in the Leather's Smithy, with the landlady (unusually, and strangely) being jealous of our outing on this wonderfully fine and clear evening.

The 7 km route, with 300 metres of ascent and taking about two hours, is shown below.

Thursday 1 May 2008 - Victoria Cave and Sugar Loaf Hill

This afternoon I set off up Constitution Hill from the bustling market place of Settle, on a breezy, sunny day.

I lunched next to a family of weasels in a field beyond Banks Lane, overlooking the pretty village of Langcliffe. Ingleborough lurked in the background, the hat on its summit occasionally dipping below its brow.


The brightly lit summit of Penyghent appeared through the bars of a gate.




A group of twenty elderly hikers in big boots and full waterproofs tramped towards me from the direction of this moss laden wood. But it didn't rain today, and my Roclites didn't ship any water, so the garb of these plodders remains a mystery.

I headed up a cart track, past a barn, to a junction where a newly laid path led up to Jubilee Caves. I chose not to visit them, turning instead to the right towards Victoria Cave.

Information from 'Out of Oblivion' indicates that Victoria Cave was discovered by chance by a dog chasing a fox in 1837 and since then has been completely excavated.
Within the cave’s thick clay deposits, scientists found an amazing record of climate change in the Dales over thousands of years.
Victorian excavators were particularly fascinated by ‘bone caves’ where there might be a possibility of finding evidence for the earliest humans along with long extinct animals. Victoria Cave certainly had plenty of animal bones. The earliest, at 130,000 years old, included those of hippos, narrow-nosed rhino, elephants and spotted hyenas. They date to an Upper Pleistocene interglacial when the climate was much warmer than today.
It seems as if at that time, the hyenas were using the cave as a den and dragging scavenged bones back to it. No evidence was found for human activity during this period.
The glaciers then returned and from 120,000 to around 12,000 years ago the cave gradually filled with layer upon layer of clay deposited as the glaciers periodically melted.
After the last Ice Age the cave was used by hibernating brown bear. In amongst the animal bones of reindeer was an 11,000 year old antler harpoon point, the first evidence for people in the Yorkshire Dales.
For archaeologists, the Roman layers were even more interesting. Here a collection of unusual bronze and bone artefacts were found, including brooches and coins. The unusual nature of some of the finds has led archaeologists to believe that the cave was being used as more than just a storage place or shelter for craft workers. It may even have been some sort of shrine.

I hadn't brought a torch, and soon came to a dark dead end. I decided (for reasons of not having a torch) not to go up to nearby Attermire Cave, whose keyhole like door leads to a high winding passage, followed by a long crawl into a lofty chamber containing a pool.
Worth a visit sometime...

My route took me south, ignoring a prominent cairn at 440 metres and soon dropping to a path junction where tracks led determinedly east towards Malham, and west directly back to Settle.
The path rose gently to reveal a wonderful panoramic view behind me to the north.

I left the path to ascend Sugar Loaf Hill, pointed out to me earlier by Heather on our walk around Long Preston. Here's the view towards Pendle Hill from its 370 metre summit.

A sharp descent brought me quickly down to a tarmac road, High Hill Lane. Heading towards Settle, I quickly turned left down Lord Elphus Lane, past a wood, towards the pleasures of Cowpasture Plantation, from where this rural scene had replaced the views of rugged limestone outcrops.

A right turn before reaching Lodge Farm took me along a good path towards Settle.

Mint sauce had been on my mind for the entire walk!

I'd done about 10 km, with 350 metres of ascent, and had taken about 2½ hours. The route is shown below.

Thursday 1 May 2008 - A Stroll with Heather

This morning I returned the well travelled (they had a week’s holiday in Torridon) TGO Challenge food parcels to Heather T-S. The photo provides adequate explanation of her withdrawal from the Challenge after an incident on a ballroom floor.
Yes indeed, dancing can be dangerous!

At least Heather is incapacitated in a lovely part of the world, curiously just 100 metres from a Rohan store. It was nice to see a green woodpecker on the feeder just outside her back door – we just have the likes of hedge sparrows on ours.
We managed a leisurely 1.5 km stroll before reaching a puddle that would have drowned the delicate cyberboot; so we had to turn around, with a very disappointed Shanti who, like Heather, would prefer to go much further.

Wednesday 30 April 2008 - Testing the Aquagear Water Filter

It’s Friday now, but the test was carried out on Wednesday. I’ve given it 36 hours for any ‘after effects’ to make themselves known. I’m pleased to report no recorded repercussions.

Across the road we have the Bridgewater Canal. I was tempted to source the test water from there, but the canal water just drifts along, it doesn’t exactly ‘flow’. For example, yesterday’s ‘Lord’ will still be in roughly the same position, probably still on his country seat, today.

The Aquagear instructions say:

Note: Only filter water preferably from running non-saline watercourse.”

So this doesn’t encourage the use of canal water, and infers destruction of the filter if salty water is used.

At the end of our road a small stream, Sinderland Brook, runs under the canal. Its source is next to junction 5 of the M60 near Wythenshawe Hospital, and its short journey to the River Mersey reaches its conclusion near Partington.
An ideal source of the test water.
Here’s where I obtained the test sample.

The brook is actually quite attractive – here’s another photo taken downstream from the same spot. The bluebells are just coming into flower.

Anyway, from what I thought was a full bottle, 400 ml of filtered water was soon produced and stored in the fridge alongside a jug of tap water. The only other time I had filtered water was when canoeing in Canada, and the regular pumping ritual was quite tedious. This system is lighter, but for large quantities could become equally tedious.

Daughter was coming for tea; she always washes her food down with tap water. I provided the first glass (the filtered water) and she didn’t comment. The experiment was then explained, and all three of us tried the water from both jugs. Sue expressed a slight preference for the tap water, but Daughter and I couldn’t tell the difference. To the best of my knowledge there have been no after effects.

A successful test…

A few observations
1 The quoted 500 ml capacity is an absolute maximum; 400ml was all I could get from the shallow brook.
2 The sleeve could absorb water from where it is sourced, and drip in to the receptacle along with the filtered water, thereby contaminating it. So I suggest removing the sleeve before use, and drying the outside of the bottle before filtering.
3 I wasn’t 100% confident about the seals, and the ‘dust cap’ is loose. So I wouldn’t be too confident about carrying the bottle full of water. In any case, with a 400-500 ml capacity, it isn’t a substitute for the 1 litre bottle that many of us like to carry. The 200 gm weight therefore has to be set against the much lower weight of purification tablets (or additional fuel for longer boiling).

Conclusion
The Aquagear seems to work, and for those with a nervous disposition about water sources it could become a valued piece of kit. For those of us who quite happily drink clear running water from high mountain streams and springs, with no ill effects, perhaps if we bore in mind the manufacturer’s comment:

“Consider all untreated water sources as suspect however clear they appear. They often contain disease causatives, chemicals and sediments.”

we might just take one of these gadgets along for use ‘when in doubt’.

The product is available from backpackinglight.co.uk whose Bob Cartwright has reported on it thoroughly in this podcast.
Several other UK outdoors bloggers have obtained it, but (like me) haven’t really thoroughly tested it. They will no doubt be writing more about it in future entries.

Weird Darren
Andy Howell
PTC
London Backpacker

We’ll be taking ours on the TGO Challenge and will report back after that.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Tuesday 29 April 2008 - Lord of the Canal

Today the 'boss' of the canal was clearly this swan, lording it in luxury as it drifted along!

The bluebells have been out for a while along here.

And all the rubbish (apart from the scrap bicycle that seems to get everywhere) that was so intrusive after we got back from New Zealand?
It's still there; just not so obvious under the lush spring greenery...

Have a good day!

Monday, 28 April 2008

Sunday 27 April 2008 - Testing the Montane Lite-Speed jacket and CCA Waterproof Bumbag

Today the weather behaved perfectly for testing the new gear I purchased yesterday.
By mid afternoon the rain was still coming down and mud embraced the Trans Pennine cycle route along the disused railway that links Altrincham with Warrington.
It was hard going in sections – the mud doesn't doesn’t look deep, but it’s a wet and grimy pastime, sloshing through all the puddles.

Trafford Council doesn’t spend any money on maintaining this amenity, though many people use it. Luckily it dries out fairly quickly in good weather.

I went all the way to Thelwall, some 10 miles from home, turning round at the first (albeit short) road section of the trail that I came to. A mile back up the line I jumped ship to the adjacent Bridgewater Canal, staying on the towpath for the 10 miles back home. The towpath isn’t often maintained, either, but it’s in better condition than the disused railway track, and more pleasant to cycle along.

I don’t think cyclists are really allowed on this part of the canal, so courtesy to all other users is a prerequisite here, and there were quite a few other users today, all cheery in the damp weather.

So, my initial verdicts on the Montane Lite-Speed jacket and CCA Waterproof Bumbag:

The Pertex (Nylon) jacket replaces my 30 year old Dartmouth Performance Clothing jacket made from ‘Dunloprufe’ Polyurethane Coated Nylon. It's 60 gm lighter at 160 gm; the small size fits me brilliantly and the hood was snug, which is what I want under a cycle helmet – this was perfect, as I forgot I had the hood up until my head got hot when the rain eased!
The jacket has a smattering of reflective silver dots for safety, and a handy, zipped, chest pocket which would take an A5 or folded A4 map, but it's not big enough for an OS map.
The jacket certainly proved shower proof, as it should be on its first outing, and I’m hoping that frequent washes using ‘Comfort Pure’ rather than any pricey Nikwax product will keep it in good condition.
A bargain at £25.

And the jacket fits neatly into the mesh pocket of the CCA Waterproof Bumbag (£20). With a capacity of only 3 litres, this is a small bag by my standards, so I had to prune down its contents when transferring them from a Lowe Alpine bag I use. Keys went into the small zipped pocket at the side – you could just about get a GPS into this, but I think Bob is optimistic with that suggestion. The front zipped pocket had space for my tools, tyre levers and repair kit, though the screwdriver and pliers from the old bag wouldn’t fit there. The waterproof interior of the bag had room for a spare inner tube, camera and phone. The Lite-Speed jacket would also fit in here if I was to use the bag for walking (and the inner tube could be replaced by food). The mesh pocket could then be used for a half litre can or bottle of water. (Any water I take cycling fits on the frame of the bike.)
The bag is clearly and securely waterproof. At the end of the ride I was happy to hose it down to remove the mud, before removing its valuable contents. It’s ideal for the short rides I do mainly for exercise (I hate gyms) and would be ok for longer rides in good weather, and for walks in showery summer weather, when I would carry lightweight waterproofs on my belt and use the bag to keep valuables dry. But in the latter circumstances I may still use a bigger bumbag, plus an old Ortlieb map case within that bag for the valuables.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Saturday 26 April 2008 - Lightweight Equipment at Ashford in the Water

Today we had a busy morning, entertained friends with a small baby for lunch, then headed out to Ashford to pick up some gear I had secretly ordered from Bob and Rose at backpackinglight.co.uk.
Bob and Rose had been very busy. When we arrived at 2.30 they were so busy they didn’t notice us looking in to their busy little empire.

By 2.45 pm they were just tucking into their breakfast!
The Aquagear Water Filter, Montane Lite-Speed jacket and CCA Waterproof bumbag were all there waiting for me, at a very good price. The latter two items are for cycling (I’ll test them tomorrow), and the water filter was an impulse buy after listening to Bob’s interview with the supplier. I may test it on the TGO Challenge and it will probably accompany us on our long Italian backpack starting in June.

Bob gave an excellent exposition on a couple of primitive stoves; no doubt Weird Darren has both of them and is carrying out exhaustive testing. It looked interesting, but too messy for me!

Sadly we missed Julia (we saw the back of her head when peering into the Backpackers Club’s AGM later), and it’s a shame that we also missed Darren, John and Dawn – three of the outdoors bloggers.
It was good to hear that Rose has a holiday booked! – this year Bob and Rose didn’t get into the TGO Challenge (where I first met them last year).

But Bob is setting off on the Cape Wrath trail next week. It’s featured in June’s Trail magazine as the Number Two Long Distance Path in the UK. It looks great, and I’m certain he will enjoy it despite the fact that it sounds as if he's taking some rather primitive equipment! I hope the lightweight gear doesn’t sacrifice too much by way of comfort… What is absolutely certain is that he'll be reporting back in graphic detail on the Outdoors Station. Perhaps he has to carry very light camping equipment to make room for all the electronic gadgets he uses to review that lightweight gear as he progresses along the route.
We couldn’t venture into the Peaks without going for a stroll. So we enjoyed a circular 6 km, hour and a half’s walk (map shown below) on what remained of the sunny afternoon, heading along dry paths strewn with Lesser Celandine and Duke of Edinburgh Award school kid hikers.


Some of the hedges were laden with blossom.

The grounds of the small church at Little Longstone looked very well tended.


Up at Monsall Head we enjoyed ice creams together with many folk out walking or touring, a car park full of bikers with ‘God's Squad’ emblazoned on the backs of their leather jackets, and a fine view of the old railway viaduct and Upperdale.

Looking back towards Ashford we noticed that not all the dry stone walls around here have survived.

The trees were coming into bud – I feel (and probably am) very ignorant not to be able to immediately identify this one:

Back at Ashford another scenic church filled my viewfinder, and at the Village Hall the Backpackers Club AGM was in full swing, the equipment suppliers were going home, and so did we…